We’re going to need a bigger cage.
The “Jaws” jokes write themselves with “47 Meters Down,” an effective shark-in-the-dark thriller that makes for frighteningly fun summer escapism. Director Johannes Roberts knows what the audience wants in a film like this — two sisters trapped in a dive cage surrounded by sharks — and gives it to them straight, no chaser.
He wastes little time on exposition. Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) on vacationing on the Mexican coast. Uptight Lisa is trying to deal with a bad break-up, inspiring her younger sister, Kate, to take her out on the town to drown her romantic sorrows and stop sulking.
That’s where they meet two good-natured locals, Benjamin (Santiago Segura) and Louis (Yani Gellman), who convince them that they need to dive with sharks to make their trip memorable. These guys know a boat captain who, for a little cash, will take them to the right spot.
Lisa is reluctant but Kate is up for hopping on a sketchy boat run by a scraggly, expat American (Matthew Modine), with two random dudes they met while dancing and wearing beer goggles.
Before you can say “shark week,” Lisa and Kate are in a cage underwater marveling at the beauty of the fish. Then a mechanical mishap sends the metal box plunging into the depths, and the captain can’t immediately reel them back in. That’s when the oohing-and-aahing turns to panic and pleading.
Roberts keeps ramping up the tension, and it mostly works, even when a plot device might seem to contradict common sense.
“47 Meters Down” is also a technical marvel. The first film to be shot at the 60,546-square-foot water tank at the Pinewood Dominican Republic Studios, it makes viewers feel like they’re at the bottom of the ink-black ocean with Lisa and Kate. And the sharks look real and hungry.
The movie lacks the emotional resonance of that other stranded-in-the-ocean cinematic experience, “Open Water,” from 2003. And “47 Meters Down” is no “Jaws,” but it doesn’t aim for camp like the “Piranha” movies, and it feels less voyeuristic than “The Shallows.”
None of that makes “47 Meters Down” any less entertaining and unsettling in a popcorn-thriller way. Like the old ad for “Jaws 2” said, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water ...”
‘47 Meters Down’
Rated: PG-13 (sequences of intense peril, bloody images, and brief strong language. 1:29. Fayette Mall, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.